Be Honest About Your Success, or Lack Thereof

Posted on Posted in Daily Rants

Here’s my very first post on my shiny new website, with a brand-new look, with my name on it, I so I figure why not start things of with a little rant. And I’ve been saving this one up for a while, letting it brew so I can be good and ready to fire off with both barrels of my righteous indignation.

I’ve noticed a BIG trend in self-publishing circles these days. (And for the record, I’m going to call it self-publishing rather than “indie” publishing for clarity’s sake, mostly because “indie” publishing means too many things to too many people.) It seems that a disproportional number of people in self-publishing have taken it upon themselves to write “how to” books on the subject of self publishing. Now, I don’t have have a problem with this in theory, I do have a problem with this in several cases of the practice, one of which because I personally feel ripped off because the author of said book lied his ass off.

First: If you do not have at least a couple of books consistently performing in the top 1000 books in the Amazon Kindle store (preferably in several different genres) you have no business writing a “how to” book on the subject. Recently, I saw a fellow self-published writer advertising a book targeted at newbie authors. I’ve been involved in several promotions with this writer in the past, and so I checked out this book. Then, on a whim, I decided to check out the writer’s other books. In total, the writer has three books out, one of which is this helpful guide.

Here are some hard numbers and harder truths about this author’s credentials:

  • One book is only available in print. It’s ranked at #8,300,110 in the Amazon Book Store.
  • A second book is available in hardback  paperback, and Kindle versions. The paperback is ranked #6,603,860, the Kindle is ranked #873,946 paid in the Kindle Store. The hardback version is NOT ranked. AT ALL. This means it has not been purchased ever. Not by friends or family or anyone else.
  • The helpful “how to” book is currently ranked #394,770 in the kindle store, which is heartening. The first I learned of it, it was ranked somewhere in the #80,000 range, which meant that people were buying it. Not a lot, but some people were duped.

Now, I’m not trying to slam this author. They are not a bad person. I’ve had several pleasant experiences with them, which is why I’m not mentioning any books by specific titles in this case, because I truly believe that no harm is intended. Still, come on. Have a sense of perspective about the validity of your own writing career (or any career for that matter) before you go off trying to help people with theirs. I’m putting this example in just so hopeful writers with dreams of making it big will take the time to look at what else a writer has done before buying their books telling you how to do it too.

Second: If you are one of those writers who is successful, be honest about how you go there. Yeah, John Locke, I’m looking at you.

In this case, I have absolutely no problem calling out self-publishing poster boy John Locke. He’s one of the few self-pub writers to hit the Kindle Million club. He’s also a lying sack of…well, you get the idea. See, I got John Locke’s book about how he sold a million books in 5 months. Throughout the book he talks down to the reader, proclaims how awesome he is and how awesome his “loyalty transfer” system is. In a nutshell, in his “loyalty transfer” system, you write a blog post about some upstanding famous person and tie your books into the same post, wait for the post to go viral, and watch the book sales come in. What he doesn’t talk about in the book is the thousands of dollars he spent buying good reviews for his books. He told the NY Times this, claiming he left that detail out because he didn’t believe the 300+ reviews he purchased had any major affect on his book sales.

To be honest, I can’t actually say his loyalty transfer didn’t have anything to do with his success. I truly don’t know. I can however, point out some numbers. The blog post John Locke claims to have “made” him was titled: “Why I Love Joe Paterno and my Mom!” Supposedly, this post went viral and resulted in a metric crap-ton of sales just afterward. Here’s my problem with this claim: On Mr. Locke’s official site, the post only has 43 archived responses. Many of them praising the post, several criticize the post, and a couple  condemning him for having Joe Paterno as a role-model. (Locke wrote the post before the Penn State scandal came to light. OOOPPPPSSS.) Being in social media, I know that 43 comments on a blog post does not a viral post make…and it does not lead to a metric crap-ton of sales.

Currently, Locke’s book is currently #7,033 in the kindle store. And this pisses me off to no end. On the other hand, if people take the time to look at the reviews, the top ten most “helpful” reviews are one-stars that say pretty much the same thing I’m saying. I, like thousands upon thousands of other hopeful self-published writers shelled out money for your book hoping to learn something we could use in our own careers. If the book had been honest, even if the information wasn’t right for me, I wouldn’t have this problem. I do have a problem with  you lying to me in order to get my money. So, John Locke, in the words of George Takei, “You are a total douche bag.” And I will share this opinion any time it comes up.

(On a side note. Maybe he’ll come after me for defamation of character or something, the case will go viral, and I’ll sell a million books as a result. If I do, I’ll write the book, How I Called Out a Total Douche Bag and Sold a Million Books. Promise.)

So, now, where should the hopeful writer turn? Thankfully, there are some resources out there that I believe are credible.

The book, The First Ten Steps by M.R. Mathias is decent. Some of the information is outdated, especially considering the “white noise” on twitter with everyone out there posting links to “Buy my book too!” I picked this book up, and it lead me to finding more sources on twitter. As a springboard, it’s a great book. Worth the $2.99. Unlike, John Locke, Mathias gets to the point. Again, some of the information is outdated, but it’s a great starting point.

Unfortunately, the book that helped me the most in my early days of being a self-published writer, is no longer available. Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-publishing Success by: Carolyn McCray, Amber Scott, and Rachel Thompson. These three ladies are the founding members of the Indie Book Collective, and the book is terrific. While I don’t agree with everything they put forth in the book, I do feel they are completely honest in the book. Carolyn McCray does an entire section on advertising, admitting proudly that she did advertise, that she does a lot of advertising, and gives logical reasons why you should advertise too! She also goes through the steps as to why and how her particular style of advertising works. While they are no longer producing the book

I had the pleasure of being involved with the Indie Book Collective for the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. I learned a lot from them. There’s also the Independent Author Network and the World Literary Cafe. These organizations are a great place for the budding self-published writer to go, hang out, and suck up knowledge. Just remember that your career is your career, and some people in these kinds of groups don’t actually have your best interest at heart. The first sign that anyone wants you to sign some sort of NDA that extends beyond your membership in the group, it’s time to consider moving on. The same goes for if they start asking you for any money to help “promote” events, and you don’t see a return on your investment. Any money you spend, should yield returns, as does any knowledge you gain while being a member of these groups.

There are two places you can go for sound advice from two people who are active and successful writers.

  • Check out “The Business Rusch” articles. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a successful writer and editor. Her information is sound, well presented, and takes into account ALL aspects of the publishing industry.
  • Pretty much the same as above, but with different perspectives and topic.
To wrap up:
Writers, be honest with your career. Don’t try to make an extra buck by pushing out a product by presenting yourself as something your not or by being dishonest.
Hopeful writers: Be alert, check credentials, and take everything worth a grain of salt, even me. Hell, especially me. I’m still trying to figure this out myself.
Remember, there are many paths to success, and not everyone knows them all. Hell, even that word “success” means different things to different people. Some people will try and find success for themselves by exploiting your desire to succeed. No matter what: keep fighting for yours. I wish you all find whatever success means to you, so long as you aren’t a douche bag along the way.


2 thoughts on “Be Honest About Your Success, or Lack Thereof

  1. While I’m not a writer (technical papers do *not* count), this makes a lot of sense to me in many different venues. We are starting to see the same sort of stuff coming out in “open access” journals — as opposed to the traditional “peer review” journals. Only time will tell if it’s a good trend.

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